Tham Ting Cave - One of the three Pak Ou Caves near Luang Prabang
There is evidence that the Lao people originally migrated south from China.
What is now Laos
is said to have been part of the Khymer Empire until the 12th Century
when the Thais gained influence under the Sukhothai dynasty. The demise
of Sukhothai gave rise to the first independent Lao kingdom in 1353. It
was called Lan Xang ( Land of a Million Elephants) with Luang Prabang
as its capital. Its leader, Prince Fa Ngoum, invaded Vietnam expanding
his kingdom into parts of Champa and the Annamite Mountains. His successors
developed Lan Xang into an important trading center. In 1520 King Phothisarat
moved the capital to Vieng Chan, which became Vientiane under the French.
His son, King Settharthirat, was revered as one of the Great Lao kings
having protected his country from attack from the Burmese. He built Wat
Phra Kaeo in which he place the famed Emerald Buddha which now rests in
Bangkok. The Burmese were successful, however in capturing Vieng Chan
and ruled for seven years.
After that, anarchy prevailed. In 1637 King Sulinya Vongsa took control and ruled for 57 years during what is said to have been the Lao golden age. Lao influence expanded to Yunnan, the Shan State of Burma, Isan in Northeast Thailand, and portions of Cambodia and Vietnam. After Vongsa's death the kingdom broke into three parts (one ruled by his grandson, another by his nephew). This weakened the kingdom allowing the Thais and the Vietnamese to encroach. The Burmese charged through the area in the 1760's also destroying Ayyhutaya in Thailand. On the rebound, the Thais regained control of Vien Chan taking the famed emerald buddha back to Bangkok where it remains today.
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Jewels of the Mekong
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